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Press Release | April 10, 2024

US Coast Guard Cutter Dependable celebrated for 56 years’ service during heritage recognition ceremony

Video from the day of the event is available here.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Coast Guard held a heritage recognition ceremony Tuesday in Virginia Beach to honor the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dependable (WMEC 626) and its 56 years of service to the nation.

The ceremony, which served to celebrate the Dependable’s legacy, underscored the cutter’s reputational motto, “Count on Us - Credibility Built on Excellence,” in the presence of cutter leadership, current and former crew members, families, and friends.

The event also marked the ship’s exit from active-duty service for an indeterminate time, placing it in commission, special status. The 210-foot Dependable served as a Coast Guard Atlantic Area asset and was most recently homeported in Virginia Beach at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek - Fort Story.

The Dependable was commissioned in November 1968 and built by the American Shipbuilding Company in Lorain, Ohio. It is the first cutter to bear its namesake in U.S. Coast Guard history.

The Dependable spent its first 27 years serving in the Gulf of Mexico at two different homeports. While stationed in Panama City, Florida, Dependable and crew rescued recreational boaters, saved disabled vessels, and assisted with deadly oilrig fires.

Of note, the cutter interdicted 120 tons of marijuana from the M/V Heidi in 1978. Dependable earned the coveted Golden Marijuana Leaf in 1981, after making the seizure of over one million pounds of marijuana throughout its career. The Dependable also played a key role in the 1980 Mariel Boatlift, the mass Cuban Exodus, for which it earned the Humanitarian Service Medal. In 1992, it was briefly homeported in Galveston, Texas, where the ship conducted various missions from the Caribbean Basin to the North Atlantic Ocean.

After completing a two-year, Major Maintenance Availability upgrade in 1997, the Dependable relocated to Portsmouth, Virginia, for three years before heading to Cape May, New Jersey, in 2000. The cutter later underwent a Mission Effectiveness Project in 2005 to modernize select onboard systems, prolonging its lifespan.

In January 2010, the Dependable responded to the Haiti Earthquake. Between 2011-2016, the cutter supported Operation Atlantic Venture off New England, and also numerous law enforcement operations throughout the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific Ocean, interdicting thousands of pounds of cocaine and marijuana. In 2013, the Dependable made history by making the biggest drug bust in the Coast Guard First District area of responsibility. The bust was worth an approximate street-value of $20 million.

By 2016, the Dependable shifted homeports to Virgina Beach, where crews continued a varied mission set with a focus on narcotics smuggling during Operation Bahamas. The cutter also responded to Hurricane Florence in 2018, supporting response operations.

Most recently, in December 2023-February 2024, while taking part in Operation Vigilant Sentry, Dependable located and deterred four unlawful voyages with approximately 100 migrants aboard. During the same patrol, Dependable’s crew rescued 33 people aboard a 25-foot vessel in distress 6 miles off Haiti’s coast during heavy seas. Crewmembers conducted the search and rescue mission in 8-to-12-foot seas with winds gusting to 46 mph, saving all aboard the vessel.

“This is a fine ship, built long ago by American shipbuilders, tradesmen, and craftsmen,” said Vice Admiral Kevin Lunday, Commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “But a ship doesn’t become a Coast Guard cutter because we paint it white and put a racing stripe on the side. It becomes a cutter when we breathe life into it by crewing it with the finest young women and men from across these United States, ensuring they are well led, well trained, and ready for the mission.”

The Dependable now transitions into an inactive shipyard status as part of the Coast Guard’s greater “AY24 Force Alignment Initiative,” a program to temporarily adjust operations to better reflect the approximate 10% shortage of enlisted members while the Service reassigns personnel and assets to ensure the essential mission readiness demanded by the American public.

This initiative will enable the Coast Guard to meet growing demands for the service’s unique capabilities and authorities during the workforce recruitment and retention challenges facing all U.S. military service branches.

“The Coast Guard cannot maintain the same level of operations with our current shortfall – we cannot do the same with less,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Heath Jones in a joint statement. “Conducting our missions is often inherently dangerous, and doing so without enough crew puts our members and the American public at increased risk.”

Once at the shipyard, Dependable’s current crew will transfer to new units, a step taken to help ensure the Coast Guard’s ability to prioritize lifesaving missions, national security, and protection of the Maritime Transportation System with no degradation to these critical services.

“I am proud and humbled to have served with and led the men and women of the Dependable,” said Cmdr. Kristopher Ensley, the cutter’s commanding officer. “These sailors represent everything that is right about our Coast Guard and our Nation: they have lived with honor, respect, and an absolute devotion to their duty. Over the past 10 months, I have seen them care for each other, care for our ship, and execute our missions – protecting America, enforcing our laws, and saving lives. They have lived up to the 56 years of legacy of Dependable’s history. They have lived up to the standard set by our motto: the Coast Guard and America have been able to ‘Count on Us.’”

Dependable is a 210-foot, Reliance-class medium endurance cutter with a crew of 76. Since commissioning in 1968, Dependable has executed counterdrug and migrant interdiction operations, enforced federal fishery laws, and conducted search and rescue missions in support of Coast Guard operations throughout the Western Hemisphere.  

More information about the U.S. Coast Guard’s AY24 Force Alignment Initiative can be found here.

For information on how to join the U.S. Coast Guard, visit to learn about active duty, reserve, officer, and enlisted opportunities. Information on how to apply to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy can be found here